How to Choose Your Pet

With some forethought and a sincere commitment, pets can be a wonderful gift to give your family. Before you decide what pet to buy, please do consider that being a bet owner is not all about fluffy kittens and waggy tailed puppies, there is a serious responsibility side to pet ownership. Before you decide to surprise your family with a new pet for the holidays, take into consideration the following to determine if your family is ready to take on the responsibility of caring for a pet:

How old are your kids? Different pets are appropriate for different ages. For example, your 4-year-old who is pleading for a cat is not capable of taking on the responsibility. A child wanting a pet, is not an indication they are ready to, or even want to, care for it. For a younger child, consider an easier pet, such as a hamster or a guinea pig.

Do your kids really want a pet? Contrary to popular belief, every little boy does not want or need a dog. Just because your little one enjoys playing with Grandma's poodle does not mean he's ready or even wants to take on full-time care of a poodle himself. If Johnny is pleading for a puppy, perhaps ask as neighbor who has a dog, if Johnny can come around and pick the dog poo up off the lawn every day for a week? Or spend and hour washing and combing a dog with a coat full of prickles, and something odoriferous they have recently rolled in?

Have you thought about the cost? Many people don't think past the initial fee required to adopt. A cat costs about $350 to $400/year and a small or medium dog costs about $400 to $500/year, with larger dogs even more. If your pet gets sick, expect your expenses to be many times this again.

Are you committed? Pets are not something that you can take home, try out and return if they don't suit you. You're taking on a commitment to care for that animal for the rest of its life. If your child is a teen, remember that usually the animal will be with you when your son or daughter leaves home. Dogs usually live for 12-15 years, cats often even longer. A parrot can live 100 years! Simple things like a weekend away means finding a carer for your pet, or placing it in care. Many landlords will not let you have a pet, so being a renting pet owner can be very tricky

Are you educated about what caring for an animal entails? Don't forget that an animal's an animal. That means cleaning up bathroom accidents and vomit, picked at furniture if you want a cat and dealing with other typical animal behaviors. You may get a dog that barks all night, or who bites the milkman.

Planning the Surprise

OK, so you've thought it through, and you feel that everyone is ready and committed. Now what? It's probably not the best idea to have Fido or Socks waiting under the tree on Christmas morning – and of course, don't EVER wrap them up, as we've all seen done on TV a million times. Getting a suffocated pet in a box for Christmas, is not nice.

It’s not as sweet, having the puppy waiting for you Christmas morning, but more practical is a gift voucher from the pet chop, then the family or potential pet owner can go together to choose the pet, or not, if that is decided.

Bringing Home Your New Family Member
Before you go pick up your new pet, get your family involved in deciding what type, size and breed of animal you'd consider. Take a trip to the bookstore or library, and read up on which breed's characteristics might fit in best with your family.

Once you've got an idea what you're looking for, where should you go? If you are after a pedigreed animal, track down a breed association(plenty listed in the links section of this site) and find a breeder near you. If you are less fussy about your pet’s genetic creditionals, try a pet shelter. Each year, millions of abandoned pets go to the great big farm in the sky because of pet owners who no longer want them. By adopting a pound pet, you give it another shot at life.

But there are other great reasons for going to a shelter. The cost is low, and there are often discounts on spaying and neutering. They also have a good selection of pets and knowledgeable staff to make sure you're getting the right animal for your family.

When you've done it right, your child will likely end up with a longtime friend and companion. , "A child who can have a pet, it can be one of the most magnificent parts of their life."

Age-appropriate Pets

Under 3 – Focus on introducing Baby to your current pets. It's not appropriate to bring in a new pet at this point.
3 to 5 – Guinea pigs are a good choice, as they like to be held, seldom bite and will whistle when excited or happy. Your child can help fill the water bottle or food dish.
5 to 10 – Choose shelf pets like mice, rats or fish. Kids can help clean cages with adult help, though you should always check to ensure that pets have food and water and cages are secured.
10 to 13 – Your child is now ready for the responsibility of a dog, cat or rabbit. Your child can help feed the pet, walk the dog, clean the rabbit cage and clean the cat litter, but you should always check to be sure pets have everything they need. Participation in dog training classes is an excellent learning opportunity for children.
14 to 17 – Your child may have more activities competing for his time and less time to spend with a pet. Birds or aquariums are a good choice. Remember, you will often become the pet owner when they leave home.